Studio Visit is a Q&A with an artist. Here, Melissa Merli chats with painter Pat Baron Monigold.
Q: How and when did you become interested in art?
A: Oh, I think grade school. My dad was a bit of an artist. I can still remember sitting with my brother and my dad painting stuff — in the 1940s they had rubber molds that you filled with plaster of Paris to make little figurines. And my brother, Bill, was always drawing. The two of us were always making art.
Q: Did you major in art at Alverno College?
A: I had an art major and a teaching English minor.
Q: What did you do after you graduated?
A: That's when I came to the University of Illinois because I wanted to continue to study drawing, painting and silversmithing. I just spent a couple of years in those classes.
I studied silversmithing with Robert Von Neumann, and he included some of my student designs in his book, "The Design and Creation of Jewelry." Then I met my husband — so marriage and family.
Q: Did you continue making art?
A: I did. I had done a lot of calligraphy, so I began to freelance calligraphy for the UI for about 20 years. I did the Bronze Tablet awards and a lot of the awards that the College of Law handed out. That was before you could run certificates through a printer.
Q: Tell me about Blackhawk Design.
A: I went into the business with an engraver, and we formed Blackhawk Design in '92. So I continued doing that kind of work for the university, and we also did a lot of work on presentation pieces and castings.
Q: When did you retire from Blackhawk?
A: We sold the business in 2003, and that's when I decided to get back into drawing. All the design work I had done was on the computer in black and white, which you have to use for photo engraving. I thought that drawing for a while was a good transition to painting.
Q: So what have you done during the past 10 years?
A: Subject matter I want to do. After a couple of years of doing still lifes, I started doing portraits, and I really enjoy that.
Q: Who are the subjects of your portraits in this show (at the Art Coop Gallery)?
A: They're people I know. There's something about them that catches your interest.
Q: Who are they?
A: We've got Sophie (McMahan), who works here. This is Lawrence Keach from Insty-Prints — he's their graphic designer. The flower carver is Floyd Giles, a retired horticulture professor.
Q: Who's the sheriff's deputy?
A: Whitman Davis. He works at the courthouse. I volunteered there for seven years, and I watched him and I was just fascinated by him. The butcher is Jason Martin at Old Time Meat & Deli.
I wanted to do portraits of local businesspeople. Having been in business, I really appreciate seeing other people operate businesses. That's my homage to small-business owners.
Q: Are these oils or acrylic?
A: All oil. I work from photographs. No one wants to sit for a portrait anymore.
Q: What are your influences?
A: I look at a lot of art. I must say locally I look at Laurie Hogin. I watch Steve Hudson. And Joan Stolz. I love her dogs. I've known Harry Breen for years; I love to look at his stuff. He's such a master technician.
Q: What do you like best about painting portraits?
A: I love that moment when you get out the paint and start assembling the colors you're going to use and you start mixing them and you're standing on the edge of a cliff and you could stay there in that exalted state if it works or else you could go over the cliff.
Q: Do you work in a studio at home?
A: Yes. I'm also a gardener, so if I'm not painting, I'm gardening.
Editor's note: "Brother Sister Art," an exhibition of works by Pat Baron Monigold and Bill Baron, remains on view through Nov. 2 at the Art Coop Gallery in Lincoln Square Village, Urbana.